Chapter Five—Second Stanza

             A town called Kinsey was a ranching/farming community located about 20 miles northeast of Arkmore, and a little smaller, but not by much.  Marshall Fred Harrison policed the town, aided by a deputy named Minnesota Michaels, “though I ain’t never been to Minnesota in my life.”
           “Where did you get the name ‘Minnesota’ then?”
           “My father give it to me. He’d never been to Minnesota, neither.”
           Regardless, Kinsey—like Arkmore—was a peaceful town, with a few shops that provided what goods the local ranching and farming population couldn’t produce on its own.  The main café, like in nearly every such town, was a Saturday morning gathering place for tale-telling, lie-swapping, and general good-natured neighborhood chat among mainly the ranchers in the Kinsey region. The farmers were still a little outcast and hadn’t quite been fully accepted by those who made their living with beef.  Anybody seen with a sheep was shot on sight.
           As usual, the conversation around the table began with talk of the weather.  “We ain’t hardly got no snow this winter,” Lib Barns said.  “Mountains ain’t got much, neither. The streams and creeks are liable to be awful dry.  If we don’t get some rain this spring, my soil’s liable to end up in Californy.”  The wind was a constant and, in the spring, generally came out of the northeast.
           “Yeah,” Dick Gentry replied.  “No rain means I might have to buy some hay from some of the farmers.”  That comment received table-wide grimaces.
           The talk soon turned to the recent Indian massacre of Ted and Melissa Britz. There was no way of keeping that sort of news from spreading like a wild fire.  Only a couple of the men around the table had known the Britz since they had lived closer to Arkmore.  Still, there was some understandable anger—and concern—over what had happened.
           “I knew Ted and Melissa,” Ian Andrews said.  “Young couple, but they were fine folks.  I hope the army finds them red savages and fries ‘em.”
           “I heard the army ain’t gonna mess with it,” Clint Hunter said.  “Old Einarsen at the fort has got himself a bird’s nest on the ground and he don’t want to be disturbed.  He’s gonna leave it up to Harmon over in Arkmore to do his work for him.”  He wiped up some spilled coffee with his shirt sleeve.
           “Well, Harmon’s a good man,” Dick Gentry said, “but this is an army matter.” Then he shook his head.  “The Cheyenne have been so peaceful the last few years.  I wonder why they did this.”
           “It was probably just a few young bucks wantin’ to strut their manhood,” Jess Hardeman offered.  “Get theirselves a scalp or two, show ‘em off to the ladies, have an orgy in one of their teepees.”
           “I hope that’s all it is,” Gentry replied.  “This area is just starting to boom.  The railroad is heading this way, is what I hear, and that’s great news.”
           All the men around the table certainly agreed with that sentiment.
           Gentry continued. “But if we start having Indian trouble, people will stay away and the railroad will, too. That could be disastrous.”
           And all the men around the table agreed with that assessment as well.
           “Yeah,” Butte Holder said.  “A lot of folks who are already here would probably leave, too, afraid of getting’ their hair lifted. Little Big Horn wasn’t that long ago.”  The famous Indian battle had been less than 10 years before.
           That brought a somber silence to the group.
           “That may be what the Cheyenne want,” Lib Barnes speculated quietly.
           “It wouldn’t be the first time some Indians went on a killing spree to try to run off white settlers,” Jess Hardeman said.
           “I’m keepin’ my shotgun and rifle clean and loaded, that’s for sure,” Ian Andrews said.  General head nods followed that comment.
           “Well, hopefully like Jess said, this is just an isolated event,” Gentry said.  “We don’t need rampaging redskins, that’s for sure.”
           Hardeman responded, “Not to mention the fact that most all of us have families ourselves and live out there in the boonies like the Britz’ did.”
           That statement certainly didn’t brighten anyone’s mood.
           Subsequent events dampened them even more.

           There had been one good snow around the first of March, but it only stayed on the ground for a couple of days.  Still, that helped the grass some.  By the Ides of March, spring was showing signs of an early arrival, though a late frost was always a possibility.
             As the conversation the Kinsey Café related, farmer and rancher alike were already wary of a dry year.
           Ken and Casey Johnston were among the new farmers in Kinsey area, having arrived two years before.  They were, like the Britz’, a younger couple with no children, and had moved to the territory when their farm in Illinois went bust.  Still, Ken was able to get enough money for the Illinois farm to buy 80 acres in Montana.  And it was a good 80 acres, with two springs and some lumber.  He wasn’t a bad farmer, having learned well from his father, and he and Casey, after a first tough year, were able to produce, in the second year, a nice crop of wheat, barley, beans, and hay.  Casey kept some chickens, goats, and a couple of milk cows, and they had several horses as well.  As also recounted in the discussion above at the Kinsey Café, a lot of the cattlemen were a little disgruntled to see farmers, with their barbed wire, settling in, but most of the ranchers were practical enough to realize that the day of the open range was about over, and a lot of them were beginning to fence their own lands as well.  “Might help cut down on rustlers, too,” was a sentiment shared by many of the cattlemen.  Sheep were still anathema, however.  They were like locusts—ate everything, left nothing, and moved on.  At least, that’s the reputation they had.
           So, after two years, Ken and Casey had pretty well been accepted by the people of Kinsey.  It didn’t hurt that they were a very sweet couple, church-going, and friendly.  When a widow lady was sick, Casey was nearly always there with a bowl of soup and she’d stay the day, if necessary.  Ken was known as a hard worker—which won him respect—he had a sense of humor, with a ready smile and a quick laugh, and he could take a joke and dish one out. But it was all in good fun, and it made him a likeable fellow.  The ladies around town tended to like his tall blonde looks, while the men fancied the petite, shy, but pretty raven-haired Casey.  The Johnstons were doing very good PR work for the farmers of the region, and when some beef pusher in Kinsey did say something askance about the agriculturalists, he always added the caveat, “The Johnstons excluded, of course.”  Ken happened to overhear the remark one time, and he had a ready, and jovial, answer.
           “Yeah. Those farmers are a pain.  I think we ought to run ‘em all out of the territory.”  Then, he paused, and with a twinkle in his eye, said, “And give their land to the Johnstons.”
           That got a laugh.  “You ain’t big enough to farm no more land, Johnston,” Bud Morris said to him.  “You gonna put a plow on that pretty wife o’ yores?”
           “Nah, I’ll just hire a couple of ranchers to do the plowing for me,” Ken answered with a grin.  And he got a few more chuckles.
           So, bottom line, Ken and Casey Johnston were well-loved and well-respected in the Kinsey area.  When they didn’t show up for church Sunday, April 14, there were some questions, because they never missed, but no overpowering concern.  “Everybody has a sick day occasionally,” Marge Handler said.
           “Yeah, horses and cows can get sick, too,” her husband Bob replied.
           Bert Darwin was heard to say, “If’n I had me a pretty little wife like Johnston, I’d be awful tempted to sleep in some on Sunday mornin’, too.”  That got a chuckle, even from the preacher.         
           Dick Gentry was in on the conversation and said, “Betty and I will check on them on our way home.  It’s not too far out of the way.” The Gentry ranch—the Rocking R—was about 10 miles out of town, on the road to Arkmore, and the Johnston’s place was off a side road maybe three miles from the Gentry’s.  It was a sign of how well-liked Ken and Casey had become and Dick had even suggested going over to the Johnston home.  He might not have done it for any other farmer in the area.
           But no other farmer in the area was as sick as Ken and Casey Johnston…

The night before…
           With no clouds, the temperature some nights still plummeted to near freezing, so Ken and Casey Johnston were both in the living room of their home, where a nice fire kept them warm.  The Johnston’s didn’t have a big house—kitchen, dining room, living room, and one bedroom—but it was sturdy and Ken had built it to where he could add on to it at a later date.  On chilly evenings like this, after all the chores were done and supper eaten, the two of them would sit in the living room so they could be together.  This particular night, Ken was at his work desk, figuring out how much of his land he wanted to plant in what crops, and Casey was sewing a shirt that her husband could wear when the weather turned warmer.  They were both busy, but they were together and that’s what mattered to each of them.
           “You know,” Ken said, talking more to himself than to Casey, “the barley did pretty well last year.  I might plant a little more of it this year.  Not much of that up here.  Seems like the folks in town took to it.”
           “Are you going to get a new plow horse?” Casey asked him.  “You said something about that earlier in the year.”
           Ken chewed on his lower lip.  “No, I think Mo can make it another year.  I’ll try not to work him too hard.”  Ken used a two horse team, but Mo was 15 years old and Ken had had him for several years.  He’d been a good one, but Ken thought he was getting a little old for pulling a plow.  Still, he wasn’t ready to buy a new horse yet.  A good draft horse was pretty expensive.
           Casey held up the shirt she had been working on.  “Here, I want you to try this on.  I think the sleeves might be a little long.  If so, I can take them up a bit.”
           Ken put down his pencil, and rubbed his eyes, glad to take a break.  “Ok.  Is there any coffee left?”
           “I think so,” Casey replied, “but I’ll need to heat it up.  I’ll get it started while you put on this shirt.”
         “Thanks, dear,” Ken said, and smiled at his lovely wife.  She was adorable, he knew it, and he didn’t mind if other people knew he knew it.
           Casey headed for the kitchen, then stopped, cocked her head, and made a face.  “Ken, do you hear something?”
           Her husband had stood up to walk over to her, but he halted and listened, too.  He heard something very faint but growing louder by the second.

             BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom…

           “That sounds for all the world like Indian drums,” Ken said.
           “Indians?” Casey said, a bit alarmed.  “There aren’t any Indians around here, are there?”
           Ken shook his head.  “No, they’re all on reservations now.  Still…”

           BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom…

           And then…

           Ay o lay lale lo e-la, lay-o
             Ay o lay lale lo e-la
             el-lay o lola lo e-la, lay-o
             Ay o lay lale lo e-la….

           “What in the world…?” Ken said, perplexed.
           Then Casey screamed.  Ken!
           Her husband looked.  Standing at the door of the kitchen was a man dressed in Indian garb.  He stepped into the living room and two more men followed.
           Ken Johnston’s eyes went huge, but he reacted quickly.  His rifle was over the mantle of the fireplace and he made a dash for it.  But he was too far away.  Casey screamed again as one of the Indians unloosed an arrow that took Ken square in the back and pierced his heart.  Ken arched his back, grunted, and fell forward.  He was dead before he hit the floor. 
           Casey was horrified but self-preservation took control of her reactions and she turned to run.  Whimpering, she made it to the front door, but that’s was as far as she got.  One of the men grabbed her.  She kicked, fought, and struggled…but there were three of them…

             BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom…
             Ay o lay lale lo e-la, lay-o
             Ay o lay lale lo e-la
             el-lay o lola lo e-la, lay-o
             Ay o lay lale lo e-la….

           Casey screamed…and screamed…and screamed…for her husband… for…anyone…
           But Ken was far beyond hearing her.  And no one else was close enough to hear…

           BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom BOOM boom boom boom…
              Ay o lay lale lo e-la, lay-o
           Ay o lay lale lo e-la
           el-lay o lola lo e-la, lay-o
           Ay o lay lale lo e-la…

           It was a sad ending for a wonderful young couple.

The next day, Sunday, after church…
           Dick and Betty Gentry, along with their son Cory, pulled up in their wagon in front of the Johnston house. 
           “Looks pretty quiet,” Dick said.
           “Yes,” Betty replied.  “I’ll bet one of them has taken ill and the other is taking care of him.  Or her.  They are such a dear couple.  I should make some food and bring it over to them.”
           “You got to feed us first, mom,” Cory, who was 15, grumbled.
           Dick smiled as he set the break on the wagon and hopped off.  “That’s all that boy thinks about—food.”  Then he hollered out, “Hello, the house!  Ken!  Casey!   Are you home?”  He walked up the steps to the front door while Cory helped his mother off the wagon seat.
           Dick started to knock on the door but he saw that it was partly open.  He knocked softly anyway, and said, “Ken?  Casey?  Anybody ho—“  But then his inquisitiveness turned to horror as he saw Casey’s ravaged body lying on the floor just inside the front door.  “Casey!” he shouted.  “Oh, Lord, no.”  He pushed the door open and rushed inside.  He saw Ken’s body lying nearby, the shaft of an arrow protruding from his back.
           The tone of his voice alarmed his wife and son and they hurried towards the house.
             Dick came out, anguish on his face.  “Cory.  Stay out here.  Do not come in, do you understand?”
           When his father spoke like that, the boy knew better than to disobey.  “Yessir,” he said.
           “What is it, Dick?  Did something happen?” Betty asked him.
           “Come on in, Betty, I’ll need your help,” Dick replied, sadly shaking his head.
           They went inside and shut the door, and Betty immediately saw Casey.  “Oh, no,” she said.  “How horrible!”
           There was a small blanket on the couch nearby.  Dick went and picked it up and covered Casey’s ravaged body.  Her throat had been slit and she had been scalped.   
           Betty then saw Ken and let out a wail.  He, too, had had his hair removed. 
           "Oh, Dick!  Who would do such a thing?”

           After recovering from his initial shock, Dick Gentry became angry.  “I think it’s fairly obvious who did it.  Maybe the army will do something this time.”
           “Indians?” Betty asked, still a little shocked.  And then she started trembling with anxiety.
           “Yeah,” Dick replied.  “Let me get a blanket and cover Ken’s body as well.  Then I’ll take you and Cory home and ride back into town and report this to Marshal Harrison.  We better leave everything as is so he can investigate, but there’s really not much investigating to do.”  He sighed.  “I thought the Indian savagery was all over…”

           Gentry found Harrison at his home and not terribly happy about having his Sunday dinner interrupted.  But when the rancher told the marshal what had happened, Harrison’s ruddy, jowled face grew grave.
           He gritted his teeth.  “All right, let’s go see.  If you don’t mind helping me with the bodies, Dick, I’ll bring my wagon.”
           “Sure thing,” Gentry said to him.
           On the way to the Johnston place, Gentry told the marshal what he had found.  Harrison nodded.  “Scalped.  Slit throat.  Indian arrow in Johnston’s back.  Did you check for tracks?”
           “Well, I need to do that, too, but this seems pretty cut and dry.”
           In the yard around the Johnston house, Harrison did indeed find some tracks.  “Moccasins.  And here,” he said, pointing to the ground near the barn.  “Unshod horses hooves.  Who are the only people you know, Dick, who rides their horses unshod?”
           Gentry sighed.  He didn’t bother answering the obvious.  Then, in angst, he shook his head.  “But they’ve been so peaceful the last few years.  Why all of a sudden…?”
           Harrison looked at him.  “That’s something the army had better find out quick.  This is the second time in a month.  If this gets to be a habit, people will move out of the area and nobody will come.  Somebody has got to put a stop to this and right now.”
           If it were only that easy…